[Magdala V1] Act 2

Fenesis cried for a few short moments.

Just as Kusla reached his hand out, she retreated back across the floor.

Kusla had been more or less accustomed to this situation. He did not pursue her without reason, but he decided to pretend he was unconcerned as he watched over her.

He tidied the books and the parchment rolls that were moved into the workshop. Kusla lined them alongside the items left behind by the former resident alchemists, and swapped out the material he had yet to read. There were a number of books made from the leather of large animals like deer or items hard as a board, some of them even laced with gold foil. One would find, upon opening them, long and flowing print with vibrant illustrations. It was evidently a very labor-intensive process

Normally, these were characteristic of an Archbishop’s belongings – or a Cardinal’s, those of a Large Lavra, or a large Cathedral’s.

It was a wonder how many such books there were.

A workshop near the battlefront is really amazing.

Kusla thought.

After working for quite a while, he caught something move in the corner of his eye, and found that Fenesis, who calmed down, was using her hands to support herself in her attempt to stand up.

It seemed she still could not stand up.

Kusla stuffed the parchment scrolls into the bookshelf, and walked over to her with a sigh.

Upon hearing the footsteps, Fenesis looked up at Kusla in surprise. She stared at the Kusla, who reached his hand out, looked at the hand, and then up at the face before grabbing it and standing up.

However, her feet were trembling like a newly-born fawn, and Kusla practically lifted her up and saddled her on the chair. Her body was dainty, and as she was still young, her breasts were still small, to the extent that they could not fit into Wayland’s opened hand.

Despite this, her body was well-proportioned, and there was a sense of elegance in the firmness of the chest.

If seen as a feline’s body, she certainly could be seen as some cat pampered in a mansion.

“You got into quite a disaster here.”

Kusla said as he poured the tea made from dried vanilla grass. The girl, whose eyes were swollen from the sobbing, would sniffle from time to time as she stared at the table.

“But randomly approaching an alchemist itself is a mistake. Nobody told you before you came here?”

Kusla brought the cup emitting steam right in front of Fenesis, and she arched her back as an ostensibly suspicious item was brought in front of her.

Someone must have reminded her.

“Nn?”

After being prompted with the question again, Fenesis looked over at Kusla with her teary swollen adamant eyes.

“But…I never…”

“Well, that’s true.”

In response to Fenesis, who answered with a hoarse voice, Kusla steeled himself with an inclined attitude.

“If I wasn’t around, who knew what’ll happen to you.”

“!”

Her body stiffened. This time, her face shuddered in fear, and she cupped her shoulders.

She swore at the monastery.

Obedience, impoverished.

And also, purity.

“Wayland…well, he’s that kind of beast who’ll eat everything. No matter how young that girl is, even if she’s a nun, he’ll take them all.”

“…”

Fenesis cuddled her shoulders, and stared right at Kusla with a terrified look she found difficulty in hiding.

“Also, those genuine alchemists have something more terrifying than an appetite for the flesh. For a beast like Wayland, a pure maiden is the best toy that can provide three times the enjoyment.

“…?”

Kusla raised 3 fingers, and Fenesis was completely fearful of this notion she could not imagine as she showed a completely disoriented expression.

“First, they can obtain good ingredients from a maiden for experimenting, like the hair strands, fingernails, tears, and fresh blood.”

She could not make even a whimper as she gritted her teeth and tensed her body.

“As for the second, of course, there’s no need for me to say this. The one being delighted…well, it’s painful.”

This time, the girl’s gritted teeth pressed against her lips, and she lifted her lower jaw slightly at Kusla.

The enemy of all women; or rather, an act below that of a beast.

“And, the last method of enjoyment.”

“…That?”

The reason why she could ask was because the second act was something easy to understand; it was an evil act everyone knew of.

Her anger was easily understood, and this question was more or less the best remedy in regaining her sanity.

However, Kusla answered her question unabashedly.

“The 3rd is the most malicious, the reason why devils are called devils. Then, what’s left after the 2nd enjoyment?”

Fenesis hesitated as she faced that icy face.

There was a large gaping hollow before this premise.

This might be the expression anyone of firm belief would show in the darkness.

“Right, a fetus.”

“…”

She did not lose her breath due to anger, and she did not gulp due to surprise.

She vomited.

Her body rejected this thought, and she was unwilling to understand it.

“The Placenta, Umbilical cord, the fetus itself, each of these items are ingredients used to make youth elixirs for eternal life since ancient times. Also, the first thing is to vivisect the abdomen while the mother is still alive…”

Kusla paused as Fenesis had covered the mouth of her pale face, her head lowered.

He nonchalantly stared at Fenesis, thinking it was enough.

He probably understood that Wayland was the embodiment of evil in Fenesis’ heart, the emissary of Hell, a mad alchemist of darkness and diabolism.

“Sorry, I might have gone overboard with the provocation. Are you alright?”

Fenesis did not look alright at all, but she adamantly nodded.

“But there are two things you can take solace in.”

“…?”

Due to the vomiting, tears were seeping out from Fenesis’ eyes, and she turned her beautiful gem-like eyes at Kusla.

“It was a few years ago when Wayland went on a rampage, attacking others like that. Because of God’s grace, he has more or less regained some humanity. Even so, the third desire is the only thing absent, and his first and second desires are still around. It’s better to watch out.”

Fenesis stared at Kusla seriously as the latter raised two fingers, and nodded her head.

“And also, the second thing is that I’m your ally.”

Kusla used the second-person pronoun ‘you’ he hardly used, and gave a smile.

Fenesis was dumbstruck for a moment, and finally showed an expression of relief, ostensibly having returned from Hell.

Kusla himself understood this relief, ”God Bless You!” and thought this with realization.

“I… do not believe you.”

“Of course. It doesn’t matter, or rather, this has to be the case.”

“…Are you trying to run away from the issue?”

“Impossible. If you’re an idiot who believes me when I say that I’m your ally, you’ll be fooled by Wayland’s masquerade. In that case, I won’t be able to protect you. However, as long as you have eyes that suspect, a mind that think, a strong mettle to fight, and enough devotion, won’t you not discover the truth soon? I know which is correct, and God knows everything. There is only one truth, but many ways to find out. If we meet somewhere, we can hold hands and support each other. Am I wrong?”

”Am I wrong?” Upon hearing this, Fenesis widened her mouth as she stared at Kusla.

The eyes were full of hostility and wariness, but Kusla was relieved.

Those eyes were not looking at things they could not understand. They were at least human, within his understanding.

Why would humans feel a sense of familiarity with what they can understand?

And alchemists were of the complete opposite, despised by many.

“How about you drink some tea? This is something the nobles in the South are trying to popularize. It won’t make you drunk like wine, it’s nutritious, and is effective against illnesses. If the sea routes are opened, it’ll become a very important trading commodity in the future.”

Kusla reached his hand out to the silent Fenesis as he tried to advise her.

Fenesis looked at the tea, and then looked back at Kusla again.

The antagonistic intent in her eyes gradually vanished, and wariness was all that remained.

”She’s so young.” Upon seeing this, Kusla thought. It would be easy to fool her no matter how many times he wanted to.

Kusla was truly mystified, wondering what results the Choir was hoping for when they sent the girl here. However, he again realized that this was not the case.

She was probably the same as them.

Post’s opinion was that the Choir would make use of Thomas’ death and get involved. In that case, the Choir would assume Post would have set up a countering position. In that case, it would be a loss for the Choir to easily send outstanding personnel, only to be killed.

In that case, they would send in someone who would be obedient, but whose death would not be mourned over.

It would be best if she could find something, but if she was killed for some reason, they could use this as an excuse to cause trouble for Post.

Kusla drank his cup of tea and glanced at Fenesis. He felt it was impossible for the girl in front of him to understand this much, and from her studious attitude right from the beginning, it seemed she was thoroughly motivated as she was proud that such a great responsibility was tasked to her.

There is a high affinity between ignorance and fanaticism, and this is common in the world.

The silence in the room was abnormal.

A few minutes later, Fenesis was drinking the tea.

The common phrase of ‘eating at the same table’ means to trust the other party greatly.

He really wanted to tell her that she would have died if the tea was poisoned.

Because she was baited by this coaxing in this situation, he could not feel happy at all.

Kusla merely said something to close the distance between them, out of his sense of duty.

“Is it nice? It’s just a similar gimmick, and I don’t know if it has the same flavor as the one the nobles have.”

“…Not bad.”

It would be more appropriate to call her firm-willed rather than obstinate. Perhaps it was because she looked frail, both appearance-wise, and mentally.

“Speaking of which, I haven’t introduced myself yet.”

“…”

Fenesis put her cup down and stared at Kusla with wary eyes.

Or perhaps she always had such an expression.

“My name’s Kusla. I don’t know whether this is a good name or not.”

“Your real name?”

In response to the question, Kusla merely shrugged his shoulders.

“For an alchemist, there’s no such thing as a real name or what. An alchemist is a seeker of something that goes beyond what humans can do. That is not what a human can do; to someone straying off the right path, a human’s name is not needed. Once we die, our names won’t be engraved on the tombstone. We’re often thrown deep into the forest or in the wilderness; and for that case, there is even less of a reason to have a real name.”

He told Fenesis the slightly exaggerated truth, but the latter did not look very surprised.

She merely lowered her head to take a gulp of tea.

“So what is a non-human like you, {{Furigana|Interest|Kusla|margin=12}}, looking for?”

This question came with an intense stare of utmost concentration.

She wanted to give a sharp, stern, steel-like stare, but it felt more like an innocent stare suitable for city life either way.

“Iron.”

“Iron?”

“Right. I would say it’s more of metal than iron itself however. They give off a dullish glow, let out sparks when grinded, and let out a clank when hit. Recently, Wayland seemed to have gained an obsession over metals, and was called to this workshop with me. But his mind is still like that, just that his disease is headed for a different direction, thinking about some magic rocks or magic metal.”

The casual continual badmouthing of Wayland brought about Fenesis’ disgust and fear, and Kusla continued,

“Metals are pretty, and they’re like religious faith.”

“…Like, religious faith?”

“God never buried metals underground in their pure forms, and people used all sorts of methods to remove the impurities, refine them, and turn them into pure substances. This is a long arduous process; isn’t religious faith the same? To slowly remove the impurities and gradually approach the pure.”

“…It’s as you say.”

Fenesis was slightly hesitant, probably wondering what an alchemist was talking about.

“And then, one day, religious faith was elevated to something that was completely different. As for whether that was what God called humanity to do, this is something a non-religious like me doesn’t understand.”

“…”

Fenesis did not answer, and her eyes showed signs of being overwhelmed and expectant.

”Perhaps he’s not as bad as I think he is?” This notion was clearly written on her face. Perhaps she was still not used to suspecting others.

Due to the difference in abilities, Kusla felt some remorse, a rarity for him.

Also, to an extent, obedience could be considered the single focus of religion.

Once there was a sense of familiarity, anyone would feel like favoring her.

Or rather, if this was the Choir’s objective, she might be the perfect candidate in making others think this way.

”That was dangerous.” Kusla thought.

“But I feel iron is the same. This is why I came here even though it’s dangerous. Besides, it’s a must to create strong iron for the Knights’ call of acting in God’s place.”

“Changing the beliefs of pagans.”

“Changing the beliefs of the hated pagans.”

Kusla added on, and Fenesis suddenly tensed up.

She was a thorough believer in the orthodox Way, to a point where it was refreshing.

The people in the Choir definitely felt Fenesis was, without a doubt, in their complete control.

That was why, for Kusla, he had to be controlled even if he expected it .

“But there are a lot of difficulties awaiting us. I suppose we can combine our strength and work together.”

Kusla said, and reached his right hand out.

However, Fenesis merely gave a glance, and did not reach her hand out.

“I’m your invigilator. I won’t become like you.”

She was certainly honest and pure. Even after Wayland groped her chest, even after she was exposed to danger, she definitely would not forget what she should do.

But this was not beyond a child obeying an adult’s instructions.

Kusla continued to act as best as he could.

“I was too careless there. I don’t want you to think that I’m trying to persuade you here.”

Kusla pulled his hand back, and Fenesis closed her eyes, ostensibly about to nod.

“But, thank you for the hospitality. And…”

“And?”

“…I’m sorry for showing such an unsightly thing.”

She did not want to say it, but she would have hated it if she did not say so.

Perhaps she had a habit of listening to God’s servants who confessed and repented over their sins, or maybe it was an excuse she wanted for herself so that she could say so.

“No? I think that’s a response to be expected.”

“…”

”Are you comforting me?” Just when her eyes were showing signs of relief, there was shame and animosity. Perhaps Fenesis’ ideal image was to have a pure, firm, steel-like believing heart of a Sister.

It was simply the dream of a girl whose seriousness was the only aspect that warrant merit.

At this point, Kusla felt the urge to protect rising in his heart. She gave off the innocent childish vibe that would make anyone think of protect her at all costs.

But at the same time, he felt foolish for treating the other party as an elite enemy soldier.

“Well, anyway.”

Kusla continued on like this, and Fenesis tensed her body due to anxiety.

Since she had a handle over the other party’s fate, she would nevertheless at ease even though it was some trivial matter.

It would at least be a consolation from this troublesome yet foolish mission.

“I’ll be in your care then, Sister Ul Fenesis.”

She was clearly relieved because of Kusla’s words, and was about to show a smile.

“Y-yes.”

And so, she adjusted her sitting posture, cleared her throat, and tried her best to look serious.

And since it was obvious she was trying to hide her feelings, just looking at this alone made him happy.

“But I’m your invigilator.”

“Of course.”

Kusla too barely managed to hide his emotions and said so with a serious look.

It was not uncommon to have someone watch over an alchemist.

Rather, it would be expected to send in an invigilator, as alchemists would carry out experiments that bystanders would not understand, experiments where they would risk their lives nonchalantly.

Of course, Kusla and Wayland have stepped over the line many times.

This would not be the first time a invigilator was sent to watch over them.

“This is basically how a workshop is like. It certainly is better not to step inside so carelessly, as there are dangerous things here, and they can be toxic when mixed together.”

For Kusla, who refused to have a tour through a workshop the first time he was brought to one, things seemed to be progressing smoothly for him.

For one, Fenesis, who made a round from the ground floor room, went down the stairs to the workshop, showed an unexpected affirming look. She had been giving suspicious looks at the various animal bones left behind by their predecessor, opaque jars and countless vials, but after a thorough explanation, the doubts vanished completely.

Besides, Fenesis should have some knowledge of the subject of alchemy, a requisite needed to be tasked with the role of an invigilator. However, it is obvious to see if there were pagan magic used if one were to compare the methods used with the books belonging to the priests with prestige.

“But Wayland is still the most dangerous of them all.”

Kusla whispered, and Fenesis curled her petite body.

Wayland was in the room with a furnace and water wheel below them.

But even so, when making a round through the workshop, Fenesis definitely would not pull her distance from Kusla.

Her feelings were like an adventurer on an Odyssey through Hell in an epic written by a great poet.

“So basically, what we do here is that we increase the quality of iron here, and research on refining iron with lesser fuel. Just as God positioned people that looked different all over the land, the rocks buried underground will have different characteristics due to the differences in land quality. What we’re looking into is the best method to extract them from the rocks dug up from the ground.”

“…”

It was said one of the rules in a priest’s life was silence.

Fenesis was being just as that, and did not make even the slightest sound as she listened to Kusla seriously.

Or rather, she probably felt something bad would enter her mouth if she spoke up in the workshop, but either way, it made the job of the one explaining very easy.

“But this is really a good workshop.”

It was the first time Kusla entered this workshop as he showed Fenesis around, and he inadvertently expressed this thought.

The workshop below had a lot more items inside than the one upstairs, and on first glance, it was impossible to determine what items were inside, and where they were located.

What suddenly appeared in his eyes were obvious items like an animal skull hanging on a wall, a scale balance, a crucible, crystals bits and a celestial globe. On a closer look, one would understand that they were positioned logically, like a mini-universe.

All the items were tidied and sorted out. Even a novice could know what type of objects they were given the relevant knowledge.

This was the reason why he could explain everything to Fenesis so easily.

But Kusla remained silent as he looked at this workshop for a while, because he felt pathos at this.

“…?”

“Ah, sorry. I was thinking the predecessor was really a capable person.”

“…”

It seemed the name was Thomas Blanket.

Though it was said he was killed in the city, the cause of death was still uncertain.

Even after Friche’s was killed, and her body was mutilated, Kusla merely thought about alchemy. However, there was a damp feeling rising in his body.

A highly skilled alchemist had gone.

In other words, there was one less comrade doing the bad things hidden from God’s sights.

If possible, Kusla wanted to have a chat once.

It was probable that the name Thomas Blanket was simply a borrowed name, and nobody knew where he came from. There was no grave, and a few years later, nobody would remember this name. What he left behind was simply this workshop and the alchemy knowledge, and since Kusla and Wayland moved into this workshop right away, it would inadvertently become something that used to belong to him.

And the method of refining iron he painstaking obtained would also be ostensibly a thing of the past; it would simply be trodden upon as an antique, one people would ignore.

This was the fate that awaited alchemists.

Alchemists would not leave anything behind.

What would be left behind was merely a trivial fact, that someone once advanced towards Magdala.

“However, I suppose most of the amazing alchemists end up like Wayland.”

Kusla pretended to joke as he said this, but Fenesis showed a disgusted expression.

“In that sense, I am a Second-rate as an alchemist.”

“…”

This line could either be interpreted as that of humility or overwhelming confidence.

Fenesis too noticed the play of words here, and gave a startled stare.

It seemed she was fairly smart.

Kusla did not dislike smart girls.

“How about Wayland’s work? I feel that he should be the one I need to invigilate.”

And he showed an honest troubled look in response to those words.

It seemed she was really terrified and revolted of Wayland.

“But if you trust me, can’t I just report everything to you?”

“…”

After Fenesis lowered her head, showed a serious expression, and pondered for a while, she answered briefly,

“Please assist me when I make sudden checks from time to time.”

She gave such a punchline as a reason, but it was similar to telling someone to accompany her to the latrine at night.

He did not laugh, but he had a slight urge to tease her.

“Understood.”

Their Supervisor Post wholeheartedly accepted the flattering praise that was filled with condescendence and insolence within before, but Fenesis glared back immediately once she knew he was teasing her.

There was an overwhelming difference in tolerance.

Kusla pretended not to notice Fenesis’ stare.

“This is how a workshop is. You can voice out about anything you want to know about when we get down to actual work, and I’ll accompany you during the sudden checks.”

“…”

“I’m not looking down on you. Or rather, it’s for your own good to call for me when you watch us.”

“…That…as expected…”

It seemed she was unable to restrain her curiosity, and wanted to ask. “I suppose it’s different from what you think the reason is.” but Kusla said,

“In an experiment, we might end up creating deadly gas that may be invisible to the eyes, undetectable to the nose, and will make you lose consciousness if you breath it in.”

“Eh.”

“The hand of the Death God. It is something that often appears when burning coal.”

Kusla placed his hand on the bear skull hanging on the wall, stroked it, and continued,

“When extracting metals, we will use poisons that will render us conscious just from a single touch. However, we do not extract those materials, mercury-type materials for instance, for their poison. Even if the poisons aren’t that powerful, weak toxins will accumulate in us if we ingest food without washing our hands after touching such materials. For example, lead, arsenic…”

Kusla folded his fingers as he counted, and as she watched the fingers bend down, Fenesis’ expression was akin to watching a pillar supporting the sky snap.

“I-I understand.”

“Ah, for us, there’s too many dangerous things we have to make clear to you rather than hide from you. If the Invigilator dies, we will be the ones suspected. We have nothing to if we’re killed because we really killed you, but we’ll really hate it if we’re to be hanged because you died on your own like that.”

“…”

It made sense logically, but Fenesis showed a complicated expression.

With so many poisons around her, there was a high chance of her dying randomly, even as compared to the chances of her being killed. This felt more realistic than all the exaggerated rumors regarding alchemists she heard of.

“And one more thing.”

“?”

“You have to eat after us.”

Fenesis tilted her head, ostensibly unable to understand.

“Even if I don’t betray you, Wayland might end up killing you.”

“!”

“Another possibility is that someone we don’t know of is trying to poison us. However, we can taste the poison if there is any in our food, so you must not eat before us. Even when you eat, do so in my presence, or if you have any courage, eat with Wayland and take whatever’s in his plate.”

Nobody will risk their lives to eat secretly.

These were the words clearly written on Fenesis’ tight-lipped face.

But Kusla was not completely joking when he said that. Originally, if Fenesis were to die at this place, they would definitely seize upon the opportunity to pursue Post because of the sacrificial pawn’s contribution. The logic was, The killer is the alchemist under your charge, so you have to bear responsibility. In that case, there was a chance Fenesis’ superior would poison her food.

It seems I have to watch her condition and health, Kusla was a little disappointed.

Even if there were no issues with eating at this place, they would have no such luck anywhere else. If someone poisoned her with sulphur at a different place, there was no way they could prove their innocence.

The strength of a chain is determined by the weakest component.

In other words, Fenesis was more of an entity sharing the same fate as them, rather than Kusla and Wayland’s enemy. They had to protect this overly weak enemy like a comrade.

The Alchemists’ teaching that everything will change applies everywhere.

There was nothing eternal. The moment one heave a sigh of relief and open his eyes, he would find himself living in Hell.

Kusla thought as he went up the steps, and the moment he looked back, he found that Fenesis had stopped in her tracks.

“Have you…always lived this lifestyle?”

It took him a little while, but he finally realized it was a continuation of the previous conversation.

Fenesis, who was looking down from above, resembled a pagan.

“Of course. It has always been like this, and will remain like this.”

He shrugged and returned to the first level.

As she followed from behind, Fenesis seemed to be pondering deeply over something.

Perhaps she was amazed by the alchemists.

“Half of an alchemist’s job is done in the workshop below, and the other half is done in the city.”

“Eh?”

“The alchemists who can’t develop good relationships with the craftsmen in the city are third-rate. It may be surprising, but those who aren’t adept at socializing can’t become alchemists.”

Fenesis was startled for a moment, as she felt that was impossible.

Kusla however chuckled,

“Our job, especially those related to metals, are basically repetitions of the experiments the craftsmen can’t do because of how busy they are every day. However, their craftsmanship is really amazing. Our results will be left on paper, but theirs won’t, and they won’t have the time to do so. That’s why we ask them and learn from them. That Wayland too looks like a decent person when he goes to the craftsmen. Speaking of which, our lives will be in danger if we offend them. Craftsmen workshops are not as peaceful as it is here; If we do anything stupid, we’ll have anvils smashed on our heads or get burned by the pokers. They definitely won’t do lenient things like poisoning or assassination, but they’ll dump any fool who decides to steal from them into the furnace for example. Even the judiciary folks in the city won’t know if that was an accident or homicide. Also, the high heat of the furnace can burn even bones to dust, and they can pretend nothing happens. In other words,”

Fenesis was overwhelmed by the atmosphere as Kusla described the situation, and the moment he said the last words and raised a finger, her eyes were attracted to it like a cat.

“In other words, this world is filled with danger, and is completely different from the monastery.”

Fenesis then nodded in response to the finger that was curled back.

Perhaps she did not truly understand the meaning behind those words, but he did not have a duty to teach her.

He stared at Fenesis, and could not resist the urge as he raised her chin.

It felt as enjoyable as teasing a kitten.

He shrugged his shoulders, and took his coat.

However, Fenesis spoke up, slightly flustered.

This would probably be a classic example of wanting to know one’s destination beforehand.

“Erm, where are we going?”

“The sunset bell’s going to ring soon, right? I need to greet the craftsmen before then. It’ll be troublesome if they’re unhappy because I didn’t greet them immediately.”

“…”

It might be hard to imagine anyone who could force the terrifying alchemists to kowtow.

“Then, what do you intend to do?”

“Eh?”

“Can you watch the house alone?”

Of course, she was clearly infuriated as she understood the meaning behind his words, but naturally, these words were said to tease her. It would be boring not to see such a reaction.

“Do not worry.”

“Oh my?”

She said so with a relaxed tone, but it was surprising she could still remain calm even as she was going to be alone with Wayland.

“Someone will come fetch me when the sunset bell rings.”

It was still fine if she remained alone for such a short while.

Kusla shrugged slightly.

“Ah, I think you should understand, but don’t touch anything weird.”

“That…yes.”

“Be a good girl and read the books.”

“Eh?”

Fenesis showed a temporal moment of surprise as she stared at Kusla.

Concerned by that response, he put his hand on the door and looked back.

“What is it?”

“Ah, it’s nothing…”

Fenesis tried to correct her words and avert her gaze as she tentatively lifted her eyes at Kusla.

“I can, read them?”

“Huh?”

He did not understand the context of this question. Perhaps it was an issue of religion here.

“Ah…it’s fine. There’s nothing that defies the Church’s teachings. Your compatriots have already checked through them.”

“…”

“However, do remember these are all high valued stuff. Don’t drool all over them.”

“!!”

Fenesis pouted, and Kusla did not bother with her any further as he opened the door.

The outside was dyed a dark red, and it was extremely cold. Before he closed the door, he glanced behind, and found Fenesis staring at the shelves repleted with books with a jubilant expression. He recalled she was reading books when he arrived with Wayland. I guess this is to be expected of a well-cultured Sister after all.

He proceeded down the slope leading to the harbor as he remained in his thoughts, and brushed past a group riding on a carriage.

There were 3 horses walking side by side, and the head of the middle horse was covered with embroidery with gold and silver lines on its head, a costly coat fluttering along his neck. On its saddle, there was an old man cloaked completely in black robes.

His stare was facing forward unflinchingly.

And remained as such even as Kusla obviously entered his sights.

There is no way there can be any obstacles in my path.

The man’s expression clearly betrayed such a notion, and the iron-masked monastery knights flanking him assured this was not a delusion.

This was the Choir belonging to the Knights.

Kusla side-stepped to allow the carriage to pass by. Certainly, there was no doubt they recognized Kusla’s face, and their stares were focused forward.

His prankster mindset was inciting him to get in their path, but he was not so foolish as to do such a thing without checking the situation inside the city.

And so, Kusla did not walk down the slope, but turned behind to look at them. they stopped in front of the workshop, and a knight poked the door with his spear. Fenesis appeared from there with her head lowered, ostensibly begging for mercy.

They then proceeded in the direction away from the port, and of course, Fenesis was the only one walking.

This might be a given in the monastery’s strict legislation regarding hierarchy, but the scene resembled that of a human trafficker and a slave trader. No, this might be the case, he thought again. The Choir deliberately chose to invite her with such formal equipment, probably anticipating any unforeseen scenarios, or perhaps they were hoping for such a situation to happen.

Such hideous folks. He murmured as he spat on the path.

The Church’s evening bell rang at that moment, and a day’s work was coming to an end.

All cities and towns had to abide by the bell, as long as the Church exists. No matter how many city councils the Knights control, this was the final bastion they could not break down.

With this as the signal, the city ostensibly heave a sigh of relief after a long day’s worth of work, and all regular activities and stalls lined on both sides of the streets started to pack up.

Despite this, the city was a lot livelier as the city folk passed by each other, those who were headed home, and those who were not done with their work. The spear-wielding city guards were patrolling around, maintaining the security of the city, resulting in congestion and shoving amongst the citizens. However, they quickly filled the gaps, becoming a human flow akin to a highly viscous liquid.

This is really amazing. He thought.

Soon after, he arrived at a large building 5 levels tall, with a pickaxe and lantern coat of arms carved out from it. Kusla did not know the geography of the city, but he would not be lost given the fact that the city’s structure is similar all around. The liveliest streets and bustling locations in the city would always be occupied by those with authority.

He looked around for a little while, and found the Knights’ building, where Post resided, a block away from him.

Unlike the world of stone smoldering under the land, the rationale behind the human world was a lot simpler.

Kusla easily leapt 3 steps up the stone steps, and without using the knocker, immediately pushed aside the heavy wooden door.

The Blacksmiths’ Guild too would have a similar layout, no matter what town it was. The first floor was a large space built to accommodate important meetings and internal arbitration. Normally, the workers would have breakfast at this place before dawn, and from dusk till night, this would quickly become a bar once work was over. They would have their meals and alcohol, and no matter how boisterous or raucous, it would simply be an internal matter for them.

But at this timing, in this large room, the chairs were still overturned and placed on the tables, and the candles were still not lit. The floor was polished neatly, and the shiny black color let out a chilling light.

“Is there anyone inside?”

Kusla tapped his heel several times, and heard echoes all over the room. Then, a voice finally came.

“Dickens? Hasn’t your workshop closed at this time ye—”

A lady with her sleeves rolled up walked out from the interior room, holding what looked like a heavy bucket in both hands.

“Hm? Who are you?”

“I’ll like to meet your Leader.”

Kusla said as he stared at the parchments laid out on the wall. These parchments list all the special privileges the council has granted the Guild, and the large number of parchments clearly showed the prestige in the town.

“May I know what your intention is?”

The lady placed the bucket aside with a loud thud, and one could tell from the sound that this really was not heavy. The lady looked young, but her slender body showed no signs of effeminacy from her, and one could feel her bravery from the handkerchief wrapped on her head.

She did give the vibe matching a Metalworks guild, and the long red hair reaching out from under the handkerchief was as messy as a sailor’s, but gave a sense of reliability.

“Ahh.”

The lady took off her handkerchief and wiped the sweat of her head as she said,

“So you’re the one.”

“?”

Kusla raised his chin, expressing his doubt, but the lady did not continue. She let down her rolled sleeves as she walked to the small altar used for prayers to the guardian saints. She then placed a thin stick into a small pot, and lit the candle on the side.

As to be expected of a Craftsmen Guild, it seemed they had prepared a firestarter beside the altar.

“You are the new incoming alchemist, am I correct?”

01_113

“No need for the long talk. Now then, where is the Guild leader?”

Kusla again asked, and the lady continued to hold the candle and light the lamps on the wall as she answered without looking back.

“That would be me.”

“…Oh my?”

Kusla deliberately invoked this tone, but he was certainly startled by this fact.

Then, the lady shot a glance over her shoulder for the first time, showing what seemed a lethargic stare.

“I am Irine Brunner, deputy for Robert Brunner, caretaker of the Blacksmith Guild.”

I see. Kusla raised his chin slightly and stared at the lady who introduced herself as Irine.

“I see. Pardon me then.”

“Not really. I too do not feel suited for this role, but nobody else is willing to take up this role.”

“What about Mr Robert Brunner?”

“He went on a long journey.”

This meant that he had passed away.

In other words, Irine was a young widow.

It was likely no new leader was appointed as they wanted to avoid any disputes.

“Then, I shall address you as Miss Irine then.”

Kusla placed his right hand on his left shoulder and gave a formal bow; though he appeared respectful, he was a little contemptuous within.

“I am an alchemist affiliated to the Knights, and I come here without a name and without a home, only skills. I hope, for the sake of the Knights, crusaders of God who aim to bring justice to the land, and for the sake of the almighty God’s name, to get the maximum efforts of Gulbetty’s Metalworks guild.”

Kusla added a little theatric in his act as he remained adamant not to let it break apart.

His work in the future would be affected if he were belittled, and this was a definite rule that could not be broken in any town. After praying to God to a point of embarrassment, he would have to follow a shockingly cumbersome process to finish the contract.

No matter how much a mentor hoped to gain assistants, if he wanted to take in a new disciple, he would have to let this disciple stay outside the door for 3 days and 3 nights. Of course, he would have to take care of the disciples’ meals and sanitary needs, and in the night, he also had to usher the disciple into the workshop and issue bedding to him. This was a tradition that had to be kept.

“Lend you our maximum effort, huh?”

After lighting the lamps, Irine puffed the flame off the extremely long candle in her hand, walked back to the altar, and smiled.

“We are the ones who need assistance.”

However, Irine actually said such a thing.

“…I really am troubled by such direct words”

“At the previous town, I really scoffed at those alchemists.”

“…”

Even the Knights could not control all the cities.

Also, the blacksmiths, who work for a living, would have better experience in the field of Metalworks. Also, there was a vast difference in iron content in different regions, and even an experienced alchemist could not match that of a local blacksmith’s. For cities with powerful Guilds, the forestalling of an alchemist’s materials was a common sight, and certainly, it was not rare to see even the backers of an alchemist end up powerless.

Thus, it was a tradition for an alchemist to kowtow to the workers when he arrives at a new town. This way, he could obtain skills, knowledge and materials, and the new techniques derived thereafter would be repayment to the craftsmen. This is despite it being a mere expression of formality.

At the very least, this was a tradition passed down for generations.

“Because of the Knights’ Crusade, business has been incessant. Even at this time, the Guild house remains empty.”

The floor and walls were well polished, and the candles looked new.

If it were another Guild, this would be the moment where a banquet would start. However, there was nary a craftsman to be seen here.

“Because of the exceptional benevolence the Knights showed us, the issue regarding the lack of students is mitigated somewhat, and most of the immigrants in this city have joined our Guild. There are 130 mentors, 500 disciples, and if we count their families, there are more than 1000 of us here. Thanks to the Knights, we’re not starving at this point. They had been assisting us in all aspects, from the obtaining of raw materials to the selling of goods, you know? Do you know they even provided the funds for the addition construction of the waterwheel and the furnace at the workshop? There’ll be punishment on us if I begrudge our lords from the Knights.”

Irine sat on the Guild leader’s massive stone seat at the desk, and her considerably massive body for a woman looked somewhat petite on it.

Perhaps it could be said that even if there was a veteran bearded blacksmith with a chiseled body, his body would appear small in the face of the Knights’ overwhelming finances, and had to remain silent as a result.

A craftsman would need money if he wants to showcase his skills. If he wants to pull any town immigrants to his factory, he would have to win the tussle for authority against the other Blacksmiths Guilds, and to win, money would be imperative.

The construction of the waterwheel and furnace too would be nearly impossible to complete alone. To put it simply, a city could only allow a fixed number of waterwheels; thus, there would be disputes with others over the privilege to use them. How did one keep them quiet? By paying them off, of course.

In the face of such issues, the Knights could give the final say by using its overwhelmingly massive fortunes. To win the war, weapons, shielding and tools needed to fight sieges were needed.

“If I refuse your assistance, I will probably be cut to bits.”

“The Knights sure are shady, but I do notthink they are this primitive.”

“No. I’m talking about the craftsmen.”

Irine said as her face showed a slight teasing smile.

This woman really has guts for choosing an alchemist as someone she can vent her frustrations on. Kusla thought.

“One of these days, the Northern cities will fall, so will there not be a new influx of immigrants? Everyone is starting to save up their wealth to show their loyalty to the Knights. After a thorough discussion, everyone agreed that our Guild’s directive in the future is to give our all for the noble alchemist.”

Irine took out a bundle of parchment scrolls from under the table and tossed it onto the table.

Kusla was taken aback, and Irine grinned.

Normally, a craftsman would not record his techniques in the form of writing. The secrets passed down within the workshop had to be different from the others. Thus, seeing how she prepared parchments with records on them, it seemed the craftsmen were already prepared to enter the new world.

They would even let the Workers Guild, originally an independent entity, let themselves be called maidservants of the Knights.

“Now do you understand the reason why I’m sitting on this chair even in this situation?”

Irine, slumped deeply within her seat, gave a spiteful smile at Kusla as she said. It seemed she was so nonchalant even when facing Kusla not because she was gutsy.

But because she had given up on everything.

“Just an empty vessel.”

“You sure are direct, aren’t you?”

“An alchemist has to seek truth.”

Kusla reached his hand out for the parchment bundles, and a unique odor gently entered his nostrils. “Of course.” He said.

Having obtained this, there was no reason for him to remain here any longer.

He tucked the parchments under his armpit, and just as he was about to head back, he suddenly thought of something.

“What kind of person was my predecessor Thomas?”

Thomas’ cause of death was investigated by Post and the Church, and he did not ask this question for the sake of investigating, but simply out of curiosity.

Or perhaps, because of Friche’s death, he was able to feel some empathy for a person’s death.

“He’s a serious and just man who seeks the truth.”

She simply shrugged, ostensibly making an insinuation.

However, one could tell from the tidiness of the workshop that this remark was not too far from the truth.

“…So I cannot lose to my predecessor here, right?”

“This will affect our profits, so please put in your efforts in the refining of iron.”

Kusla gave a slight smile, and left the Guild house.

He closed the huge heavy door, took a few steps, and heard what sounded akin to a slam from the inside.

There are people who are pressured by this sort of huge pressure everywhere, to the brink of collapse.

However,

“Only I…”

Can drown like this.

And so, he buried this secret in his heart, and walked to the workshop in the city under the setting sun.

Upon arriving back at the workshop, Kusla found Wayland in the underground room, weighing the metals on a scale.

“How are the workers~?”

“Not an issue. It seems the Guild works closely with the Knights. Look at this.”

He placed the parchments on the workdesk,, and Wayland too was surprised by this.

“Hehe~? So they are willing to sacrifice their dignity in exchange for profits?”

“Whatever dignity can be regained once they become the first to reach the new world and build up their power.”

“The Knights are really good at uncovering people’s desires, huh~”

Wayland said as he ruffled through the parchments, and then set them aside in an uninterested manner.

“Anyway, I don’t think our predecessor Thomas died foolishly like what we heard.”

“Oh?”

This time, Kusla was the one who asked.

“I checked on the items left behind in this workshop, and the purity of the ingots are shockingly high. The purity is higher than the standard ingots I brought from my previous workshop.It is exapserating, to be honest. However, iron sand isn’t the only thing that can be mined in this region; there are a lot of inferior ores filled with sulfur and lots of other. If these are ingots refined from that kind of iron, that method he used is practically magic. There’s no way the blacksmiths in town can do this.”

“Magic…”

“It feels like the Devil’s work, like it was made by some Divine work. That is…”

Wayland looked up at the ceiling, and said,

“Maybe he is a resident of Magdala.”

“!”

Kusla gulped. For an alchemist, Magdala was a unique term, a place all alchemists aimed to reach.

Wayland’s skills were better than Kusla even though they were fellow peers in the field of alchemy, and thus, he would take this term more seriously. If he were to say it, it meant that it was not a joke.

“This might be the reason why that oaf Post chose to lock up this place and not tidy it up even if the Choir has to keep an eye on him. If that man is able to make such high quality ingots, his standing must be high up there or something.”

“But he just can’t find where the technique records are hidden. This is why the situation is as such.”

Alchemists would never record their findings on parchment, and most of choose to leave their records in a corner of the building. They could not predict what would happen , and may end up being eliminated for political reasons. For that reason, they would leave their findings in the furnace, roof beams, or under the floor tiles. Sometimes, they would even leave their results in the form of codes.

“Once he knows the technique, he can ignore the Choir’s interference, demolish the workshop, build another one somewhere else, and produce iron in masses while being heavily protected. I guess this is the reason why the workshop here is not demolish. This place might be the crux to solving the code, and then, we will be able to see Thomas’ refined techniques and how diligent he was.”

“Hm?”

“I did a rough look through of the records that are left behind, and they are all in codes.”

The symbols used could only be understood by alchemists, and astrology knowledge was added as a distraction.

“It might be a little forced to treat this as blaspheming God …anyway, I guess the structure is that the results of each metal purifying will be used as a code written at the back end. Every time there is a development, he will use the records before to create a code and make it difficult for others to take what he achieved. I guess he was killed after he made that shockingly pure iron, and did not even have the time to make a proper conclusion.”

“In other words, that means…”

Kusla muttered, and Wayland’s lips showed a spiteful smile as he nodded.

“If we want to find out how to make iron with such purity, we need to go back to the start, follow Thomas’ footsteps, and find out where did he make the mistake. There is no way an ordinary alchemist can do this. I guess we are not just simple sacrificial pawns after all.”

This certainly was a delightful conceited mindset.

This was an excitement that could not be felt outside the battlefield, to remind oneself his abilities are being tested while his life is on the brink.

And as alchemists, there was reason for them to be excited.

“I really look forward to seeing if we can find out the true identity of this magic, no matter how the process is like.”

“Ohoho.”

Wayland laughed, got up, and leaned his body over the table as if he was whispering.

“However,”

And so, he said,

“It might not be too much of an exaggeration when that oaf Post said that he allows us to use our poison and assassination skills to protect ourselves.”

The tone Wayland used was akin to talking about the next day’s weather when he said this.

Kusla looked around for a little moment, and shrugged.

“No matter the reason, this is an alchemist who is outstanding enough to be killed.”

“Yeah. An overly strong mercenary may be killed not only by his enemies, but also his employer. It will be troublesome if he revolts. If the Church gets this technique…and I guess this is the reason. If the production of iron can be controlled, the Church will catch in in the war to purge the pagans.”

“Certainly a lot of enemies here. Got to remember this.”

Kusla pretended to joke about as he raised his fingers and started counting at them.

“Something smells fishy about this choice of personnel. I guess it will not fall short of our expectations here.”

Wayland let out a slight snort, and stroked his beard slightly as he raised an eyebrow, saying.

“Take note of your surroundings and watch out for more details than anyone else. If you keep remaining in the workshop, you will not realize that the city is occupied by the enemy.”

“The story of Auripedes, huh?”

Auripedes was a man from an ancient kingdom, hailed as an inventor, but was more of a forefather to alchemy.

It was said he was overly obsessed with his experiments, and even when bathing, as long as he had an inspiration, he would go naked and run about on the streets, making a weird sound. Even his death was due to a random soldier chopping him when he was solving geometrical questions on the floor. At that time, the enemy had occupied the city, and when the enemy soldier asked for his name, he was furious that the former interrupted his thoughts, and actually argued back furiously. As a result, he was unable to protect himself in time.

The tragedy of a man who lived more than a thousand years ago lingered on till now, for there was probably still a lesson worth learning from.

In this era, a fool like him would never be a good alchemist.

“That Missy too obviously looks very unnatural.”

Kusla changed the topic to Fenesis, and Wayland’s understanding was probably the same.

“I feel that your worry is not unwarranted, Kusla. Acting alone will not be the reason why someone is being so tense.”

But in regards to Wayland’s words, Kusla could only look over with a weary attitude.

“…How many times have you done that already to attain such understanding?”

“Hm? This method is very effective on those without boyfriends, you know~? It is just that they will continue to remember about me for a while, whether out of anger, or out of fear. And once their minds are thinking about me, they are mine. After that, I just need to show her my sincerity, my conquest is complete, and they will not feel so tense.”

From a human perspective, a person who would frivolously call this sincerity was a scum of the highest order, but as a man, he might be someone worthy of respect.

“But considering that we are being viewed as expendable pawns, we certainly are not thinking too much.”

“Correct. This is a workshop with two grown men living here, you know~. It is already a mistake top leave a nun here, and we cannot deny something might happen no matter how much we try to prevent it. Though it seems that you are not willing to do this, Kusla.”

“You really are a beast.”

“Surely not ~ this is the act of comforting something you love.”

Kusla himself felt such thoughts and actions were vile enough. However, anyone saint that would be deemed as weak, so he chose not to press the matter.

“But in practice, that cod is in charge of watching over you, Kusla. I will leave her to you then.”

Kusla glared back, but Wayland have a nonchalant look, pretending to be inattentive.

“All because someone pushed the job offer to me. I will show you.”

“I hope so. There is a lot of things to do starting tomorrow. You will get in my way if you loiter around like this.”

Wayland stood up, his hands on his hills as he glanced around.

“This is an alchemist’s workshop, my country.”

“Then what about me?”

Kusla asked, and in response, Wayland merely chuckled and shrugged.

On the next day, just as Kusla was about to head out, he sensed someone walking in circles at the front of the workshop.

Through experience, one could tell whether it was someone who just happened to pass by, or someone trying to look inside the workshop.

Obviously, it was the latter, but this person’s skills were very lacking.

Kusla wanted to ignore the person, for it works be a halls to chase him away. He however clearly saw who the person was when the latter tried to peek through the shutter gap.

At this point, it was impossible for Kusla to try and act calm; it was more impossible for him to do so when the person knocked on the door and walked in.

Appearing at the door was Fenesis, who was thoroughly worn out.

She was probably a little lost, wondering if it was Kusla or Wayland inside.
.
If she knew her trail of thought was seen through, what will her expression be like?

Kusla wondered as he let the petite Fenesis into the house and walk below his chin.

“What…is with this?”

He wanted to pretend to remain calm, but Fenesis did not seem to realize this at all. She removed the coat over the robes, and soon after, was taken aback by the item on the table.

“I want to replicate the work orderliness the previous owner showed.”

It does not matter even if other know of this. Kusla thought as he said this honestly. It would be harder for him to do work if he made a flimsy lie that would be seen through easily, and if it were seen through. Normally, no lie would bring good results unless there was a need to lie.

“…Huh?”

But Fenesis’ answer was a little vague. There were.stones and powder filled in little vessels of all shapes and sizes, laid out in front of the parchment on the table. There were also drawings of tools and stars on it, and the words gave a sense of stateliness. On first glance, it must be something related to magic or something.

But if it were a magic ritual, it would probably be a little more systematic, or in a certain sense, more aesthetically appealing.

Fenesis seemed to be at a loss of what to do, looking like she was wondering if she could prepare some sweets for many guests that would be coming in, rather than because there was a suspicious odor coming from the items laid out on the table.

“Do not sneeze here. If you breathe in the powder that flies up, you may die.”

“Ah!”

Upon hearing that, Fenesis frantically covered her mouth with her sleeve, but upon seeing Kusla, she frowned.

“Are you alright?”

Kusla did not answer this muffled voice, and merely shrugged and smiled.

“…Please do not make such a joke in future.”

“But it is true that I do not want you to sneeze. This is such perfectly ground powder made after an entire night’s worth of work. Wayland will go crazy if he has to do it again.”

“Uu…I will pay attention to that.”

Using Wayland as a dismotivation certainly worked like a charm.

“Then…why are you dressed up like this?”

After hearing Kusla’s explanation, Fenesis stared curiously at the items laid out on the table, and then stared at Kusla with a confounded expression as the latter was dressed in a coat.

“I am going to a market.”

“Eh?”

“There are still some things we lack, and if I go to the market, I might be able to buy various useful things. I am a little concerned about leaving Wayland behind in the workshop, but it is great to have such a good inspector help out.”

Kusla grinned as he said this to Fenesis, but the latter paled, indicating her refusal.

“Er, erm? Eh?”

“Before I go, let me notify you of some things to take note of. It is still fine if there is a stench resembling that of rotten eggs, but if you smell anything similar to crushed rocks, or if there is black smoke appearing from the furnace chimney, hold your breath, quickly run outside, and run to the Baggage Corps’ headquarters. It is very likely that asphalt is being burned. I told you before, during the introduction to this workshop, that the hand of the Death God may reach out for you any time. Once you breathe in it, some colorless and odorless gases will take take your life away. In that situation, call some people here immediately to stop Wayland’s madness; anyway, whether the town becomes a town of death…it will depend on what you do.”

Kusla patted Fenesis on the shoulder with a serious expression, ostensibly saying that there was really a Death God; in response, Fenesis glanced at the shoulder gingerly.

“Then, I will leave this to you.”

Kusla thought she would at least hold in her emotions for a while, but the moment he turned around, her hand was already tugging at his coat.

“…”

Kusla stopped and turned his head around to look; Fenesis immediately recovered and released her hand flusteredly.

Please do not leave me here. However, this was what her eyes were saying.

“What is it?”

Kusla asked, and Fenesis shrank back. This habit of hers caused her to be unable to say anything, especially when she was almost completely overwhelmed by fear and anxiety.

This was probably a pretense on this invigilator’s part, but her ability to hide her expression was completely gone. It seemed she would be terrified at the prospect of being left alone with Wayland.

Kusla naturally knew that Fenesis would be terrified, but upon seeing her in this sense, he started to feel a little gloomy, rather than the delight that would have resulted from teasing her.

It seemed, certainly, that the appearance of one trembling in fear from walking to a guillotine would be different from the appearance of one terrified of entering the latrine.

But though she said she was scared of using the latrine, it would be troubling in the future if she got clumsy because she was overly timid.

Kusla sighed slightly and said,

“Did the higher-ups order you to watch me?”

“Nn.”

Fenesis was practically grabbing onto the last ounce of straw offered to her as she affirmed this statement.

Kusla tried his best to look unwilling, and Fenesis used this chance to ostensibly regain some pride as an invigilator. She showed the expression of a drowning person who touched the bottom of a lake, trying her best to to gain self-confidence.

“I am ordered to watch over you.”

Her green irises remained unnaturally still.

Kusla shrugged, “Whatever”, and answered.

Gulbetty had always been a port city. Even when the Church had not formally clashed with the Pagans, it was an era where they still respected each other after all.

But at this point, this had become a drawbridge leading to the frontmost warzone line against the Pagans, a powerful symbol showing the Pagans the existence of God.

In this town, one could find many mercenaries and knights strolling around, and many shops that were built to indulge them. On the other hand, there were also homicidal clergymen who did not want to linger around in the Church, and that they felt the the battlefield was a place to test their faith.

Since early in the morning, there would be people performing with musical instruments, people drinking away while creating ruckus, and roaming evangelists preparing to start on their journeys; such a scene was not that common.

But Kusla did like this sort of hodgepodge atmosphere.

In this place, malicious acts could be deemed as good deeds, and vice versa.

In other cities, all moneymaking acts deemed as vile would be denounced, but at this place, things were completely different; they were be rationalized for being a mean to finance the war against the Pagans. Not only that, but as long as they earn money, even if it meant trading with Pagans, it would be deemed as robbing wealth from the Pagans.

A running theme in this place was that if there were some varying circumstances, there would be an unfamiliar outcome. This was utterly similar to the acts of the Alchemists, and one could say this town itself was a smelting pot of alchemy.

Kusla and Wayland were sent to the local workshop partly as criminals, and this scenario would be a good chance for them to a certain extent. For once, they could return to a place where they could refine metal.

“Then, where do you plan to go to?”

Fenesis frowned as she glanced aside at some savage mercenaries, who were blindfolded as they threw knives at some bottles on the wine barrels, making a huge commotion.

Right now, if I point out that she has been timid up till just now, her face will be flushed red, and she will probably snap back at me while looking like she is ready to bite me.

“Did you not hear? We are going to the market.”

Fenesis was intimidated by the cold stare from Kusla; perhaps the terrifying memory in the workshop from a while ago awoke in her.

But as it was a bright sunny day, there was nothing to be terrified of.

“I-I did hear, but I did consider that there are all sorts of markets.”

She was clearly showing that she was trying to act tough, and it was really worth teasing her a little.

“Not that sort of large marketplace, just an ordinary one.”

“I-Is that so? Then, what can we buy there? Some materials for spells?”

Looks like she has more or less recovered a little. Since she is asking such questions so gleefully, I really want to pat her on the head.

“Things like tubs full of cow eyes, and baskets of newts.”

“Ack!!?”

Upon hearing Kusla’s words, Fenesis stopped in her tracks.

Kusla turned around, and a man, who resembled a worker, knocked into her after she suddenly stopped, and she, petite and white, tumbled forward.

“I was lying.”

“…Lying is a blasphemy against God…”

Kusla wanted to retort back, saying that Fenesis’ pretense was considered a lie, but upon seeing her fidget and cup her knees, he felt it was better not to add on to any trouble, and chose to remain silent for the time being.

“I will not buy such things, and besides, there is none of those to buy anyway. anyway, what I need now is wheat, rye, oat, chicken eggs, goat’s milk; also, full-bodied grape wine, and…”

Kusla folded his fingers as he counted, and beside him, Fenesis immediately showed a suspicious expression.

“Are you preparing food?”

Her tone seemed to indicate she did not think alchemists need to eat.

Kusla however shrugged and said,

“These are all to be bought for experimenting.”

“…”

“Ah, also, I need to buy some cow, horse and pigeon feces.”

“…A-Are those used for experimenting too?’

“Certainly..”

“…”

Fenesis was no longer able to tell if he was teasing her, and asked lethargically,

“Are these really sold?”

She, who lived a life of prayer at the monastery every single day, probably felt that cow feces and cow eye balls were similar.

“Ahh, once dried up, cow and horse feces can be used for fuel. There are shops that sell them.”

“…And pigeon’s?”

“They are normally used for tanning. Do you know what tanning is?”
Kusla asked, and for a while, Fenesis did not answer. This lack of answer demonstrated the fact that she did not understand what it was.

“You peel off the hide like this.”

“Hii!”

Kusla reached his fingers out to Fenesis and stroked her on the cheek, causing her to jump back in shock.

He looked up and grinned, but did not laugh. She placed her hand on her cheek, stone-faced, and once she recovered, her face was flushed red.

“Anyway, once the hide is removed, there is additional work to prevent the raw hide from rotting away. This is tanning, and in such situations, pigeon feces have to be applied. This is normally sold at leather tanning workshops or dye shops.”

Then please say so in the first place, Fenesis thought as she glared at Kusla with tears in her eyes.

“And then, such things are used for refining metal.”

“You are probably lying again, are you not?”

Fenesis sighed and said as she turned her head aside, starting to lament what she was doing at this place.

Perhaps he had teased her too much.

“Cow and horse feces can be used to strength iron.”

Kusla first said this,

“And as for pigeon feces, I want to try out if it works the same as cow and horse feces.”

“…”

Fenesis continued to keep her head turned aside.

Kusla however did not mind as he continued.

“As for eggs, I plan to use the white and shells. Once the shell is grounded into powder and thrown into the furnace, the impurities in the iron can be removed. The white is used to remove the turbid materials in the grape wine.”

“…Grape wine?”

Kusla could not continue on if he were the only one explaining and rattling on while ignoring everything else.

Perhaps his personality was that of one who loves to take care of others.

“The purified full-bodied grape wine could be fermented into vinegar, and vinegar has properties that can dissolute metal. It is thus used as a reagent.”

“…And, and wheat?”

“Ah, are egg shells not white? If the shells can alter the outcome of refining, I want to see what kind of effect wheat can do since it is white as well, so for this reason, I want to use wheat. It may have the same effect, but it may not be as effective.”

In response to Kusla’s explanation, Fenesis looked to be at a loss of what to do.

Perhaps she was starting to doubt after being teased so much.

“Do you know how iron is refined?”

“Eh? …I-If it is at that level, I do still understand.”

“Is that so?”

Kusla said this with a slight mocking tone, and Fenesis glared at him.

“You burn the rocks and gather the melted portion to form metals.”

Am I correct? Fenesis straightened her body and puffed her chest, looking a little delighted.

“Basically, it is not wrong, but the actual work is a little more complicated.”

“Ugh…”

“If it is iron sand, and that we need to refine iron of ordinary quality, your method will be the one used. We lay out iron sand on burning charcoal and wait for it to metal. If someone wants to increase the purity however, just remove the floating impurities on the surface.”

“…A-And then?”

“The complicated part is when there is a lot of impurities other than iron. In that situation, the refining process is a lot more complicated. For example, when there is lead impurity inside, we have to first heat the ingot, melt away the lead that is easier to get rid of, and what is left is an iron block like coarse cotton. We take it out, cool it, smash it with a hammer to even everything out, and wash it in running water. After washing it in running water, there will be different layers in the mineral; some will sink fast, some will slowly sink, all due to the different densities. In that situation, we can simply choose to extract iron as far as possible, put it into the furnace, and melt it again. After that, we add some charcoal, some wood blocks with leaves on them, and afterwards, some lead. The reason why we have to add lead again is because it will melt sooner than iron, will melt away some of the extra impurities within, and allow us to extract them. The adding of charcoal and wood is to increase the purity. Sometimes, we may add things like egg shells and lime. Lime here…is some white rocks.”

Kusla shrugged, and Fenesis nodded vaguely.

“The heating lasts between sunrise and sunset, or about there. At this point, factors like adding charcoal, the method of heating, and time taken will affect the product. When waiting for the heat to take place, we have to to remove the floating impurities and throw them away. Once everything is done, we remove the melted material and cool it, and after this phase, if we want to create things like swords or armor, we need to continue the processes of forging and quenching. If there is sulfur and other impurities, we need to change the temperature and additives used. That is probably the gist of it.”

Upon hearing Kusla explain this was basically it, Fenesis, who was engrossed by hearing this, suddenly seemed to recover.

“I-It really is a little complicated.”

“Right. It is this complicated even after knowing what we are refining.”

The moment Kusla said this, Fenesis nodded vaguely again.

“Is there any question?”

He asked, and she lifted her head, but immediately showed a troubled expression and turned her head again.

“You are my invigilator, correct? It is necessary to exchange information and have mutal trust with you.”

“…”

Fenesis eyes were glanced aside at Kusla, revealing the mistrust and fury at this trust he spoke of. However, once she turned her stare back, her face clearly showed doubt.

And then, she really could not help but keep her doubts in her heart, completely unlike a demure lady.

“There is probably something you lied to me about, but I still want to ask.”

“That really is an awful bias you have.”

“Exactly how far will you go with your blasphemy of God?”

Fenesis raised this question, ostensibly ignoring this joke Kusla made, and this was enough to render him speechless.

“You alchemists are all followers of heresy, spit upon God, disrupt the order in the world, and indulge in carousel, or so I heard.”

“And then?”

“A-and then, I was assigned to watch over you…”

As he chatted on with Fenesis, the two of them arrived at the market. There was a vast array of goods within, and a bustling atmosphere filled the place. Kusla however was not here to buy ingredients for dinner, and he was not there to be a profiteer.

Obviously, they were here to purchase the goods he need, and soon, they were holding bags of all sizes.

Kusla handed a sack over to Fenesis, and she instinctively received. But soon after, she immediately frowned, for it was a sack filled with horse and cow feces.”

“You, you really are…!”

Fenesis seemed to be angry, and sighed away in an unknown direction.

However, the shopping robbed her off the time to ask, and before they could continue with their questions, they had to continue moving along from one shop to another, which made Fenesis a little uneasy. She was really concerned, wondering if Kusla would be furious by this overly direct question.

For she just called it a heresy in front of an alchemist.

“As to be expected of a place near the warzone. We even have such shops here.”

Kusla said as he stopped in front of a stall he passed by.

Fenesis was repulsed by the sack of feces she was holding by the hand, while concerned about Kusla as she continued to look over, but she too was surprised once she saw the stall.

“But these certainly do not look valuable when they are arranged like this.”

Kusla noted wryly, and Fenesis could only curl her lips stiffly.”

There were a lot of holy tools spread out on this stall; the shopkeeper noticed Kusla, who stopped in front of the stall, and walked out from inside.

“Oh my, is there anything you need? These products are the finest of consecrated goods from the Southern Archdiocese. Ah, you did some shopping for food? Let me introduce to you this pot here. If you pour in water from here, any foul water can be purified, and if you use this water to wash any ingredients, you do not have to worry about any Pagans having touched it at all. Currently, I can sell you one for 20 Quil, and two for 36 Quil. How about that?”

“You heard that?”

Kusla said this to Fenesis behind her with a teasing voice, and the shop keeper could be heard groaning. At this point, she did not have enough will to suspect that shop keeper for promoting the item with such suspicious functions, or rather, she was fully focused on moving that sack of dried feces away from her body.

“We-Well, if it is not one of the Sisters from the Knights…heh heh.”

The residents in this town would immediately know she was affiliated to the Knights from the trims on her robes

Kusla ignored how the shop owner fidgeted as he was cornered, and made a quick glance of the items displayed at the shall.

There were brass candle altars, tin bottles, iron cups, and bronze tabernacles.

These were goods alchemists would continue to look on at, but amongst them, there was something that caught his eyes more.

“That is?”

“Ah? Th-this you mean?”

The shop owner panicked as he reached his hand out to grab it. It was a statuette of the Holy Mother, the size of a palm.

“This, Dear Sir, is a Holy Mother statuette specially ordered by the Knights of Gulbetty…”

“I suppose this is pure silver, ?”

The statuette was very inconspicuous, and on first glance, one would assume it was a crude item sculpted from soda lime carelessly.

But it was about time to take it away from the shop owner; it felt different from stone when held on the hand.

“How much for this?”

Kusla asked, and in response, the shop owner did not seem to understand his words as he remained confounded for a while.

“Er-erm, actually, this is not for sale.”

“Hm?”

“Well, a little while back, it was once sold, but soon afterwards, there was an order that they would be recollected. It seemed there is a need to take care of the Church or something…”

Kusla stared at the Holy Mother statuette in his hand, and then turned his eyes to the shop owner.

“There is often this saying that the Knights are the right breast, and the Church is the left.”

“Heh heh.”

The shop owner however was feeling torn, wondering if he should smile in front of this Sister.

It was an undoubted fact that both the Church and the Knights worshipped the God above them, but the form of worship was significantly different.

The Saints they worshipped were completely different, but one would be really foolish to inquire if these Saints are borne of the same teachings.

Amongst these factors however, both sides do worship the deity called the Holy Mother.

These two powers were wrestling over the love of the Mother, and the people found it to be as laughable as twin babies fighting over a mother’s breasts.

“So then, why is something that should be collected back by the Church here?”

“Eh, this was amongst the things in the storeroom, and I just so happened to find it…I had been looking for a time to return it, but since I was too busy…”

“I see.”

Kusla heard the explanation from the shopkeeper as he examined the statuette. Suddenly, he noticed Fenesis’ stare.

“So Miss Dolly is still at the age of craving?”

Kusla said this with a mischievous tone, and Fenesis immediately went silent as she puffed her cheeks.

“For someone like you to hold the Holy Mother–”

“This goes to you then.”

“Ah, eh, eh?”

Fenesis panicked as she caught the Holy Mother figure Kusla let go of.

But the shop keeper was also panicking,

“Erm, that item is not for sal—”

“This is a deposit.”

Kusla said as he put down the money.

The shop keeper, who panicked, had his stare taken by the money due to his nature as a merchant.

“And did you not want to return it to the Knights? We are from the Knights.”

The moment the shop keeper heard this, he recovered, and finally lifted his head.

“No, but…”

“My name is Kusla, and I am an alchemist.”

The shop keeper’s expression froze immediately, and he was at a loss for words.”

“Once you tell them that name, they will not do or say anything. If the money is not enough, they probably will pay the rest.”

The shop keeper was at a loss of what to do, and turned to look at Fenesis with a look pleading for help, but she could not do anything either. She was clutching the Holy Mother’s statuette close to her chest.

So be it then. after Kusla gave this look as he walked out of the stall, the owner seemed hesitant on saying something as he scratched his head and wondered if he should give chase. After seeing Fenesishe still went after Kusla. For a little while, Fenesis was bewildered by what happened, gave a disconcerted look afterwards, and in the end, after bowing to the shop keeper, chased after Kusla.

“E-Erm, is that true?”

“But you do not mind, right? This Miss Dolly here does match our Miss Sister here.”

01_145

“…”

Fenesis wanted to express her fury for being treated like an idiot after all, but could not say that she wanted to return the Holy Mother figure.

After a short silence, she said,

“This is not Miss Dolly. It is the Holy Mother.”

Fenesis said these words with a cherishing tone as she stared at the Holy Mother figure she was holding close to her chest, and upon seeing this, Kusla shrugged, whatever you say, and gave such a look.

For the time being, Kusla had told the shop keeper to inform Post of the situation, and Post would disburse the rest of the incomplete payment. Post would then begrudge Kusla for a while and make the latter return the Holy Mother statuette, but in that situation, Kusla would then say that Fenesis was the one who wanted to do this. As Fenesis belonged to the Prayer Squad, Post would have to submit a request to her superior, asking that Fenesis was to return it.

While he abide by this foolish-like bureaucratic procedures, Kusla would be able to secretly steal the Holy Mother statuette from Fenesis, melt it, and give some vague answers afterwards. It was unlikely the Higher-ups would have an argument over a mere statuette of the Holy Mother.

This was the basic of basic ways an alchemist could accumulate money.

“Then, let us pick up from where we left off. We did not stray from the path just for the sake of it.”

Fenesis, who had been rubbing the Holy Mother statuette whilst ignoring that her robes were covered with dull silver, lifted her head upon hearing Kusla start this topic calmly. Even though they were in the midst of noisy uproars, these words managed to reach her ears.

Suddenly, Kusla said with a serious look,

“But we certainly are heretics.”

Kusla continued to stride forward while leaving a stunned Fenesis behind while she stopped in her tracks, and she hurriedly ran after him.

“Most of the people at the Knights misunderstand us. It is true that there are some alchemists pursuing an elixir of immortality, or a miracle elixir that can cure all sorts of ailments; As for me…I too am chasing after for something a little ridiculous.”

“Eh?”

“No, it is nothing.”

Kusla shook his head, and continued,

“Anyway, Alchemists are basically the same as Craftsmen, but unlike Craftsmen, Alchemists are a collection of people who will never have a good end. This is the reason.”

Kusla looked aside to Fenesis, and tapped his hand at his head.

Fenesis gave a skeptical expression as she looked on.

“Because there is an unhinged mind .”

“…Are you talking about me?”

And so, Kusla inadvertently chuckled at the words Fenesis said to him.

“Ahaha, that is not it. I am sorry for teasing you a few times, so please do not be so suspicious.”

“…”

“I am serious. I just cannot stop myself.”

“…You cannot stop?”

“Right, I cannot stop. Once I find a certain objective, I would have an irresistable urge to track it down to its origins. Those obsessed with metallurgy cannot bear it if they cannot find the perfect metallurgical method. What if I use this method do this, what about this, how about that? We will continue to work on it after countless attempts and countless methods, until we gain progress. In that case, what do you think will happen?”

“…”

Fenesis pulled her jaw back in, ostensibly peeping as she stared at Kusla.

“One will fall into heresy.”

If the purity of iron can be raised through the use of ample charcoal, what about other forms of coal? And so, they would burn all sorts of items to form coal, and add them little by little. In the end, the results would definitely vary. One would then wonder if it was due to something else. Someone said it was because of the type of wood, another said it was due to the humidity in the weather; another said, no, the constellations two days ago was not aligned properly, and finally, someone called out, saying it was best when he went to the Church to repent.

And so, it was a matter of time before people started to defy God.

There were some who would try using spiritual or curse techniques, and use abhorrent creatures like lizards or toads to make coal. Even those that managed to maintain their sanity would have some radical thoughts after testing out all sorts of tree materials that could be made into charcoal, only to find that they did not work.

Shall we try using the wood from the legendary Cross that Saint was crucified to death on?

Perhaps some would have this notion as well.

Limestone and egg shells could cause a different outcome, and dog bones would cause another different outcome; in that case, what about putting a Saint’s bones in the furnace?

“Craftsmen gain their rewards through the production of items, and of what quality these products are of, but we are not like that. It is just that our interests coincide with those in authority. To an outsider, we may seem to be committing folly, and I myself to think this is the case. However, we just like what we like, and we pursue for whatever we want to pursue. the issue is that the people around us do not think of it this way. They will simply wonder what this person is plotting, what that person is going to come up with that. For that person is an Alchemist…someone who strayed off the path…”

Kusla did not know what orders that Friche, who once expressed her love for him, received from the Church in the end. She probably believed wholeheartedly in the misunderstanding on the Church’s side, and the Knights too probably had a similar misunderstanding, which resulted in that overzealous response.

In fact, he did not want to talk about that dangerous topic.

For he felt it was merely a test of a refining technique’s quality.

“Anyway, we can only take the remarks the people around us make for the sake of our research. If we do not do so, we will not be able to ensure ourselves. But this will cause us to be more demented as a result, and in the end, we end up being watched by a Sister with a honest religious heart.”

“!”

Fenesis remained silent at Kusla’s sarcasm, but this frozen expression did not remain for long.

And Kusla naturally knew the reason behind it.

For this was not a joke.

Fenesis, who seemed wise, understood that as well.

“We knew, but we cannot stop ourselves. That is why we are foolish.”

Kusla chuckled with a sarcastic expression on his face as he looked down at Fenesis beside him.

Fenesis was ostensibly resisting something as she brought her chin back in and averted her stare unhappily.

It seemed she was not used to interacting with another person’s true feelings.

A hunter, upon seeing that pure sidelong face of hers, would ostensibly become the hunted.

“…Are you not tired?”

In regards to this brief question from Fenesis, Kusla was startled for a while.

“What?”

“Are you not tired? Of living that way of life?”

Fenesis seemed to be looking at Kusla with a pitying expression, causing the latter to grimace.

This expression was the same as when she showed whilst Kusla was introducing the workshop to her. His past was filled with poisonings all around, that he had to be aware of any such attempt on him, and from thus forth, he had to continue living this life. Fenesis seemed to have deeply realized such a reality, so that expression was probably one of compassion.

I really am a failure as an Alchemist to let a pretentious Sister without any knowledge of the world pity me.

“Who knows? Nothing like this had happened to anyone else other than me. Do you think I can imagine the joy of {{Furigana|Interest|Kusla|margin=12}} sleeping peacefully?”

“…”

“At this point, I am starting to realize how embarrassing this name is, but people everything seem to be suspecting me.”

“Eh?”

“I just continue on to my destination regardless of day and time. That is basically what it means.”

He never said such things to Friche before.

Why? Even he, if asked, would not know the answer.

“This is the reality of an Alchemist, nothing more, nothing less.”

Did I express myself too plainly? He did think of this before.

But perhaps, he wished for someone to listen to me.

Thomas Blanket, who once worked in that workshop, suddenly died. Friche too suffered a similar fate as he did.

Those in this line of occupation would have to be more open-minded about such events that were to be expected, but as for why others would overreact to the things he do in his pursuit of his interests? This question often lingered in him. The motive behind an Alchemist becoming one was truly a trivial matter, and there was nothing to exaggerate.

As he continued to ponder, his mind became white, like the robes draped on Fenesis.

In the face of such whiteness, he subconsciously thought of bringing his hand to it.

“Thus, I have a request to ask of you.”

But if he were to continue rattling on, he would be an unqualified Alchemist.

Kusla looked at Fenesis, and said,

“If you are here because of some severe misunderstanding, please tell me.”

“…Misunderstanding?”

“To be precise, it should be called a secret order.”

In response to Kusla’s words, Fenesis’ expression tightened for just a moment. As for whether it was because there was something she was hiding, or something else, he did not know.

But though he did not know, it would be best of him to make a promise.

“It will be troublesome if both of us continue to doubt everyone. The large shadows appearing on the wall are most likely just small rabbits.”

“Am I a rabbit myself?”

“It is as you say.”

Kusla teased Fenesis a little, and the latter inadvertently let out a laugh.

But he smile gradually vanished, and with that remaining expression left on her face, she looked over at her hand.

“We are the same…”

“Ah?”

“Eh?”

Fenesis lifted her head, and blinked.

She seemed to be muttering to herself unwittingly.

“I-it is nothing. Either way, I am your invigilator, and I have to finish this mission.”

The words she said at this point caused them to feel a different atmosphere different from before. It would be too much of a dampener to continue asking Fenesis after seeing her holding the Holy Mother statuette in her clutches, ostensibly praying.

Based on the fact that she could enter a Knights’ monastery at such a young age, it seemed Fenesis did not live a simple life either.

“Anyway, I hope we enjoy this together.”

Kusla said, and the Church bell indicating the prayer time at noon rang throughout the marketplace.

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